So you’ve taken time to read the instructions, followed the mixing and application directions to the letter, and spent all day painstakingly eradicating all the weeds from your yard only to be left with the arduous task of cleaning your sprayer before you safely stow it away until next year!
Once you know how to clean a sprayer after using Roundup the task doesn’t seem so daunting, hazardous, complicated, or messy and can even be described as straightforward.
There are some pitfalls and potential dangers that everyone needs to be aware of upfront, however. So whether you’re a seasoned professional or a novice, read on for my straight-talking and no-fuss guide on how to get it right so that your sprayer is as good as new for the next time you need it.
Re-Using A Sprayer After Filling It With Glyphosate
The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists glyphosate as a probable carcinogenic. However, its carcinogenic effects are a controversial topic. It is believed that this herbicide can expose humans to long-term health risks, such as reproductive issues, liver disease, and pregnancy risks.
Therefore, not only do you need to protect yourself whilst using products containing glyphosate, but you also need to clean your sprayer thoroughly to avoid further exposure.
Cleaning a Sprayer After Using Roundup
Sprayers have two main parts: the tank and the nozzle. Whether it is a handheld or backpack sprayer, the cleaning process is similar and the ultimate goal is the same: Remove all excess product from the sprayer, dispose of it safely and clean the chamber of the sprayer thoroughly – both inside and out.
How To Clean Roundup Out of Backpack Sprayer
Backpack sprayers are the tools of choice if you have a big area to cover because they carry more content and are more flexible. Here is how you clean one.
1. Empty the tank:
If you have a small surplus of herbicide inside, spray it on the plants again until the nozzle runs dry.
2. Dispose of Any Remaining Roundup Products:
If you have a large amount of remaining liquid you will need to pour it into a container for disposal. Do this while still wearing protective clothing (at least gloves, mask and safety goggles).
3. Clean The Sprayer Tank:
Remove the nozzle along with the wand and the hose that draws liquid up from the tank. Using a sponge, soap, and warm water, thoroughly clean the inside of the tank, the outside surface of the sprayer, and also the top section where the nozzle is screwed on.
Pour the soapy suds over unwanted plants (rather than down a drain) and repeat several times. Once the inside is clean, rinse all surfaces of the sprayer (inside and out) with fresh tap water.
Do not let the Roundup sit for a long time without cleaning. Wash it immediately after use to keep the chemical residues from building up on the tank surface.
Cleaning A Roundup Sprayer Nozzle
While it is possible to clean the tank using a sponge, the nozzle has unreachable internal cavities. Therefore, you need to flush it and begin the process using hot soapy water.
1. Fill The Tank Half Full of Water:
Pour the water into the tank until halfway, then spray it all out of the nozzle. Consider spraying close to where you were applying the herbicide to avoid contaminating other areas.
2. Flush The Nozzle System:
Next, flush the system using an ammonia-based cleaning solution. You can make your own formula by mixing 3ml of ammonia with 380ml of water. Fill the tank halfway with the solution, then spray it out about five times to flush the wand and nozzle.
3. Soak The Tank
Leave the remaining ammonia solution in the tank overnight, then spray it all out the next day.
Thoroughly rinse the nozzle by spraying through with hot water.
Using an old toothbrush, clean and scrub the nozzle with hot soapy water. Remembering to clean the hose and wand as well.
How To Neutralize Roundup in a Sprayer
Cleaning & diluting with water helps reduce the toxicity of Roundup, but the best neutralizer is ammonia.
As described in the steps above, you should leave the ammonia solution in the tank overnight, which helps to break down the herbicide.
If you have the money, or just prefer not to make your own ammonia solution, you can buy commercial tank cleaners and detergents. Arguably these are more effective at breaking down water and oil-soluble herbicides compared to household detergents and chemicals.
Can You Leave Weed Killer in a Sprayer?
Yes, you can. However, it does depend on the amount of time you are leaving it there. If there is an interruption due to weather, it is okay to leave the chemicals in the tank, provided you resume spraying after a few hours. You only have to agitate the herbicide in the tank to mix up the chemicals.
However, leaving it for more than a few hours will lead to blockages. Heat and cold tend to make the Roundup clump up, forming a gel that clogs the nozzles and lines the tank. This is likely to result in being unable to use your sprayer again in the future.
The best practice is to measure or approximate the exact amount you need so that you spray everything in the tank making it easier to clean at the end of the day.
If you have to continue spraying the next day, at least wash the tank using hot soapy water. Neutralize with ammonia once you have completed the spraying project.
Getting Rid of Old Weed Killers
Various US states run household hazardous waste programs with at least two collection events per year. These programs offer residents an opportunity to safely dispose of RoundUp and other harmful chemicals.
For instance, Tennessee runs these events in the fall and spring to avoid harsh weather, while in California, there are various collection facilities in each city.
However, if you are a farmer or commercial pesticide user, you cannot use the standard household programs. Most states run clean sweep programs that handle the disposal of large quantities of pesticides and herbicides. Details of this program vary by state.
That said, you should try to avoid generating if at all possible by buying only enough Roundup for your garden. If you have a surplus, share it with your gardening friends or family. Make sure any remaining chemical goes to good use.
Can You Pour Roundup Down the Drain?
No. Pouring Roundup down a drain ends up contaminating the waterways. Even wastewater treatment plants cannot neutralize such chemicals, so the runoff will end up seeping into the ground. Eventually, in some way, it will end up back in your home, as we get our freshwater mostly from rivers and boreholes.
If there is no safe disposal method available, dilute the Roundup and then spray it onto permitted plants. Check the label instructions to get this info.
Final Thoughts Cleaning Glyphosate From a Sprayer?
Glyphosate weed killers are super beneficial to farming and gardening, but you must handle them with care and with environmental safety in mind.
Whichever sprayer you use to apply Roundup, ensure you clean it the right way to ensure safety and long-lasting use.
Although these are the general cleaning and disposal directions, it is vital to check the manufacturer’s instructions to implement the best practices.